Monday, September 19, 2016

A Prayer for My Children

Before my babies were born, I had long talks with the Lord. I sang lullabies and prayed over my growing belly. My focus was to carry them safely into this world. After they were in my arms, I prayed more. There were fevers, wheezes, scary first steps (that headed for sharp corners of the coffee table), stitches, surgeries and moments that I didn't know what to do. Teen years were (and are) wonderful and yet pretty much horrible. I've paced the cold wood floors, praying for a teen driving a car on wintry Ohio roads, prayed for job interviews, college applications and friendships. There were nights nursing broken hearts and discussing future plans and days of teaching, learning and ultimately, letting go. On the day each has left the nest, I stood bravely, yet proudly, while my heart was kind of breaking. I pray over each one daily, sometimes several times a day. With seven, that takes a while. I petition God to help them--to shelter, be near, save, heal, provide. But what is my real prayer for my children? Protection? Good health? Favor? Happiness? Yes, all of that and more. I'm their mother. I want all good things for them, but most importantly, I want them to know God.

When I say that, I don't mean that I want them to recite Bible verses, sing "Oceans" at the top of their lungs, pray before meals, or attend church and youth group, just to please their mother. I don't want them to go through the motions of being a Christian and do "all the things." I want them to truly KNOW God. So I pray, "Lord, be real to my children. Show them who you are. I want them to know you like I do." Then I am frightened by the weight and reality of my prayer. What am I doing? I remember how I found out that Jesus was real. I was broken, in emotional pain, rejected, and out of resources and options. My back was against a wall, I was treated unfairly, or watching someone die. I faced impossible obstacles, immovable mountains, illness with no answers, desperate to change . . .


So, I pray, "Show them who you are."

My mother's heart adds:

"But Jesus, please be as kind as possible. Like, maybe you could just appear in their living room and give them a comforting hug. That would be great."

 But, the true character of my prayer may be more like this:

"I have given these children to you, God. I want them to know your heart and I trust you with their lives. Let them feel the sting of rejection, be broken and poured out, walk through fire, and know what it's like to be in need, if that's what it takes.  Allow them to make mistakes, so they know grace. Let them feel the loneliness, so that they know you will never forsake them. For good measure, maybe some kind of twist or turn in life that will show them that you alone, are constant. Allow people to come against them unjustly so they can learn that forgiveness is not always deserved, but is freedom if extended. Maybe even add some sickness in there too, God, because they need to know that you are a healer. Make them aware of all of their shortcomings, and their need for a savior. Let them want for something, so that they learn that you are everything. Amen."

"Yes, I want them to know you, but, wait! Be gentle, God! I don't WANT them to hurt or go without. I've spent their entire lives preventing it!" 

But I know the truth. It's the broken places where I found Him. I was powerless to save myself, and nobody else could do it either. I couldn't go on the faith of my grandmother, my mother, my church, my friends. I had to step out on the waves knowing I could be overcome at any moment if I took my eyes off of the one who could save me. I remember one of the first times I realized that my faith was my own. My sister and I stood outside our mother's room in the ER. She had suffered a hemorrhagic stroke and her prognosis wasn't good. In fact, it would take a miracle for her to survive at all, let alone open her eyes and know us. I remember thinking that I couldn't ask Mom what to pray, or where to go in the Word-- I just had to do it . . . right then. I wasn't under her wings, but needed to soar on my own and fight for her. Something happened. My faith increased. My prayers were bold. My praise didn't stop, and I knew it wouldn't, no matter the outcome. In the end, she was a miracle, and I grew to know him more. Walking through rejection and divorce, I knew him more. Through major illness, through death, we knew him more. His character, his presence, his comfort, his provision, his promises that do not fail. His voice, his leading, his Word.


I once attended a conference and there was a beautiful young girl on stage. It was obvious that she had many God given talents. The Lord spoke to my heart and said, "For her to have a real ministry, she must know brokenness. To fulfill my purpose for her life, she must know who I am." Ouch. Why the difficult stuff, Lord?

It makes sense though, doesn't it? If we are given much, but we don't know desperation and his salvation, or our own limitations and a limitless God-- then what do we have to offer anyone else? What is our faith in? We can quote Bible verses, but they won't be our lifeline, or one to someone else.  Our words may be kind, and may be carried on a lovely melody, but they are just words. But, if we still sing when we are broken, and others hear the song,  and if we raise our hands in praise when we have lost something-- if we hurt because others hurt, and if we step out, even when shaking in our shoes and doubting everything but Jesus, then we are ministering.

Others come to know him.

How can I tell you that God is faithful, if I haven't SEEN him move? How can I encourage you to hold fast, if my help never came? I often encounter people with broken hearts. It soon becomes apparent that it's not a chance encounter, but that they were sent for me to love, offer hope, take their hand, wade into the mess, and share their pain. But I still have my own. I have questioned the Lord and asked why he thinks I am capable of ministering to the broken at all, when I, myself, have not been fully healed. But I know the answer. 
There's more to know.

I started this blog entry in January of this year. I'm not exactly an active blogger, as you may have noticed.  (Last published post was in 2011, but I have a good excuse. Really.) Today, the first answer to this mother's prayer arrived, so I finished this entry and hit "publish," knowing that this is really just the beginning. The answer came the way I feared it would-- pain. But today, I can also say that there is hope. I can stand on his promises. I can continue to trust him. I have seen him in the storm clouds and know that this is being allowed for good, even though we can't see what that means now. Our Father is kind, he binds up our wounds, he makes us strong, and he refines us. He gives us strength to do hard things while he does IMPOSSIBLE things.  He gives the ability to love when it is not returned, and to forgive the unthinkable. We are able to lay down our own "rights" and submit to his will, which is always, always, better. There is nothing that comes to us without first passing through his hands. This is when trials turn to gold, when hearts turn to him, and when he moves. He never wastes our pain. This is the start of another story that will testify to his faithfulness and bring him glory.

Oh, to know Him more. 

{A note to my children: It hurts to even type these words. I hurt, when you hurt--probably more. All those things in your childhood that were difficult, made you uncomfortable or were not suited to your taste, I had to allow because I am your mother and knew it was for your good. (This includes peas, wearing that eye patch to strengthen your eye muscles, and not going to that "friend's" house, which were all epic battles at one time.) I can't fix this, even though I desperately want to. I have to step out of the way now, even though I will grieve, because I need God to be . . . God. But I am here and will walk through it with you, even though I cannot take this for you. You have to go to him, and allow him to work in you, and through this. Remember that you are my heart.}